March 31, 2010

UK: Free Care? Elderly will still have to pay most of the cost just to stay in a home

. LONDON, England / The Daily Mail / News / March 31, 2010 By Daniel Martin Labour's free care for the elderly plan was exposed as a sham yesterday after it emerged that the middle classes will still face bills of thousands of pounds a year. Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced that by 2014 the Government would pay full care costs once someone had been in a residential home for two years. But the small print of his White Paper revealed the state will pick up less than half the bill. Only ' personal care' - the cost of helping people to wash, eat, dress and move around - will be included for all, an average of about £12,000 a year. Even if Labour's fiercely controversial 'death tax' is introduced, accommodation costs - rent of a room, food and utility bills which can add up to a further £16,800 - will not be paid except for the least well- off. It means that dementia sufferers who spend years in care homes could be landed with bills for tens of thousands of pounds. Care plan: Gordon Brown and Health Secretary Andy Burnham (left) chat to Sylvia Thomas, 81, in her social housing flat in Stockwell, south London, yesterday Last night critics derided Mr Burnham's much-heralded launch of the National Care Service as a betrayal of the elderly, especially those who had saved all their lives to give them a nest egg in retirement. Only those with assets of less than £23,000 - including the equity in their home - will have their personal care and accommodation costs paid. Questions were also raised about how the plans would be funded. The White Paper was being seen as a humiliation for the Health Secretary as he was forced to delay plans to bring in a 'death tax' to pay for free elderly care for all until after a further election, in 2015. Cabinet colleagues told him the unpopular proposal, which could have seen middle income families paying up to £50,000 into a compulsory insurance scheme, could cost Labour millions of votes in the election expected in May. However the paper makes it clear that the Government supports a compulsory levy, saying the Tories' alternative proposal of a voluntary scheme would not raise enough. Mr Burnham said Labour would appoint a commission of experts to decide how a compulsory levy would be paid - with the idea of a 10 per cent tax on the value of an estate, paid on death, firmly on the table. But people with more than £23,000 in assets would still have to pay accommodation costs, even after they had paid into a compulsory insurance scheme. Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley said: 'The death tax is alive and kicking despite their attempts to bury it in the small print of the policy in the hope people won't notice.' The White Paper said a deferred payment system would mean no one will be forced to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for the accommodation costs of residential care. Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of care home provider Anchor, said: 'It is shocking that individuals will not have their accommodation costs covered. A scheme which allows people to defer payment is a step forward but is unlikely to stop people having to sell their homes, just put it off for a bit.' Labour peer Lord Lipsey, who sat on the 1999 Royal Commission for Long-Term Care which was ignored by Tony Blair, said the proposals were unfair, unaffordable, and fail to ' provide the better services that elderly people and their carers really need'. [rc] Click to continue reading... The five-year plan to defuse a timebomb Analysis by Daniel Martin © Associated Newspapers Ltd